Interpreting The Prophets by Aaron Chalmers

There is no doubt that the Prophets of the Old Testament are the most difficult portion of Scripture to get a handle on. You can go astray in so many ways from an interpretive standpoint. Mr. Chalmers, teacher of the Old Testament and hermeneutics, writes to assist us in that quest  in this volume published by IVP.

He specifically wants to deliver something different from what most of us have on our shelves. Other prophecy handbooks aim at content about the individual prophetic books and the prophets themselves. He feels that what is more needed is an ability to get in these books and sensibly interpret ourselves. Though I appreciate the content-driven volumes myself, I can see his point. The volume he has given us, accordingly, is about the complicated hermeneutics of the prophets rather than a traditional volume.

He has succeeded, in my view, on some levels. His threefold division of the historical world, the theological world, and the rhetorical worlds is logical. In the historical world section, he spends time well explaining what an Old Testament prophet is. I take issue with some assumptions he makes in regards to the writing process of the prophetical books. Though he is kind to conservatives, he seems to lean more toward a critical perspective of redaction taking place over centuries. There is no concrete evidence to cause me to believe that position, but admittedly a large part of the scholarly world agrees with him. It seems to me Mr. Chalmers’ theological position stands close to John Goldingay, who is, in fact, oft quoted in this volume.

The latter part of the historical section was interesting as was the theological one. The rhetorical section made distinctions that scholars wrestle with more than pastors or Bible students. The distinction between prophecy and apocalyptic sometimes, in my view, confounds more than it enlightens. Still, he will explain it as well as it can be.

This volume appears like a textbook at times, and would not make a profound difference if you were going, to say, preach a sermon on a text in Obadiah this Sunday; but you would gain insight in how to think about the prophets overall and that is the value you will find between the covers of this book.


I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.    

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